The monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos dates back to the Visigothic period of the 7th century. In the 10th century, the abbey was called San Sebastián de Silos, but acquired its current name when Santo Domingo was entrusted to renovate the abbey by Fernando the Great, King of Castile and León. The abbot designed the church to have a central nave with two side aisles and five chapels attached to its apse and transept. When Santo Domingo died in 1073, work on the church and the cloister was handed over to Abbot Fortunius, who saw the rest of the construction to its completion. The church was subsequently rebuilt by the neoclassical architect Ventura Rodríguez.

In 1835 the abbey of Silos was closed, along with other monasteries in Spain. Benedictine monks from Solesmes in France revived the foundation in 1880.

The two-storey cloister of the monastery, which has large capitals with carved scenes, and also relief panels, is considered a masterpiece of Romanesque art. The capitals in the lower cloister are decorated with dragons, centaurs, lattices, and mermaids. There is also an important Romanesque free-standing enthroned Madonna and Child. The cloisters are the only surviving part of the monastery that hasn't changed since its inception. The cloister is an angled rectangular shape with 16 semi-circular arches on the north and south sides and 14 semi-circular arches on the west and east sides. The lower storey was begun during the last quarter of the 11th century and completed in the second half of the 12th century. The lower storey's date derives from an epitaph of the eponymous Santo Domingo, who died in 1073, which is located on the abacus of a group of four capitals in the north gallery. The cloister was dedicated on September 29, 1088. Additionally, the upper story of the cloister, which was placed upon the wooden vaulting of the first story, was completed during the 12th century.

Together with the library of Toledo Cathedral, the Silos Library was the main repository of liturgical manuscripts of the Mozarabic rite until many were auctioned in 1878. The library still contains the Missal of Silos, the oldest Western manuscript on paper. There is a historic pharmacy with a specialist library.

The cloisters and pharmacy are open to the public. Visitors are also able to attend services such as vespers in the abbey church. Access to the library is restricted to researchers.

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Founded: 7th century AD
Category: Religious sites in Spain

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Lorca Castle

Castle of Lorca (Castillo de Lorca) is a fortress of medieval origin constructed between the 9th and 15th centuries. It consists of a series of defensive structures that, during the Middle Ages, made the town and the fortress an impregnable point in the southeast part of the Iberian Peninsula. Lorca Castle was a key strategic point of contention between Christians and Muslims during the Reconquista.

Archaeological excavations have revealed that the site of the castle has been inhabited since Neolithic times.

Muslim Era

It has not been determined exactly when a castle or fortress was first built on the hill. The first written documentation referring to a castle at Lorca is of Muslim origin, which in the 9th century, indicates that the city of Lurqa was an important town in the area ruled by Theudimer (Tudmir). During Muslim rule, Lorca Castle was an impregnable fortress and its interior was divided into two sections by the Espaldón Wall. In the western part, there was an area used to protect livestock and grain in times of danger. The eastern part had a neighbourhood called the barrio de Alcalá.

After Reconquista

Lorca was conquered by the Castilian Infante Don Alfonso, the future Alfonso X, in 1244, and the fortress became a key defensive point against the Kingdom of Granada. For 250 years, Lorca Castle was a watchpoint on the border between the Christian kingdom of Murcia and the Muslim state of Granada.

Alfonso X ordered the construction of the towers known as the Alfonsina and Espolón Towers, and strengthened and fixed the walls. Hardly a trace of the Muslim fortress remained due to this reconstruction. Muslim traces remain in the foundation stones and the wall known as the muro del Espaldón.

The Jewish Quarter was found within the alcazaba, the Moorish fortification, separated from the rest of the city by its walls. The physical separation had the purpose of protecting the Jewish people in the town from harm, but also had the result of keeping Christians and Jews separate, with the Christians inhabiting the lower part of town.

The remains of the Jewish Quarter extended over an area of 5,700 square m, and 12 homes and a synagogue have been found; the synagogue dates from the 14th century and is the only one found in the Murcia. The streets of the town had an irregular layout, adapted to the landscape, and is divided into four terraces. The synagogue was in the central location, and around it were the homes. The homes were of rectangular shape, with various compartmentalized rooms. The living quarters were elevated and a common feature was benches attached to the walls, kitchens, stand for earthenware jars, or cupboards.

Modern history

With the disappearance of the frontier after the conquest of Granada in 1492, Lorca Castle no longer became as important as before. With the expulsion of the Jews by order of Ferdinand and Isabella, Lorca Castle was also depopulated as a result. The castle was abandoned completely, and was almost a complete ruin by the 18th century. In the 19th century, the castle was refurbished due to the War of Spanish Independence. The walls and structures were repaired or modified and its medieval look changed. A battery of cannons was installed, for example, during this time. In 1931 Lorca Castle was declared a National Historic Monument.

Currently, a parador (luxury hotel) has been built within the castle. As a result, archaeological discoveries have been found, including the Jewish Quarter.